Frank Turner, Chris T-T, Jonny Black
Folk and punk may not sound much alike but both styles rose to voice the discontent of the people, the anti-thesis of popular music and mainstream ideals. On the surface it seemed like a huge change of direction when Frank Turner stopped screaming in Million Dead and picked up an acoustic guitar, but in hindsight it made perfect sense. Frank's steady rise from the toilet circuit to Wembley Arena where he will support Green Day this summer, has been both sensational and inspirational.
Jonny Black is better known as the main-man from local-rockers, Lafaro; tonight, however, he's providing support as a solo act having flown back especially on a day off in the middle of Lafaro's UK tour. Whilst there's a bit of a country-tinge to Lafaro's dirt-rock, Jonny's solo stuff is much more laid-back, good old-fashioned folk with pure Dylan vocals. With his plaid shirt, cheeky on-stage banter and engaging performance - not to mention a plectrum borrowed from the front-row - Jonny has the ability to shine solo if he wants to, but having just released a serious album of the year contender with Lafaro, hopefully he sticks to the day job.
Chris T-T is Frank Turner's label-mate, mate in general, and main support tonight. He warns us that he's "going to play for 2 hours, which will leave Frank with about 8 minutes". He's playing solo tonight too, and his set is a mixture of indie-folk, folk-punk and, er, folk-rock. The highlights include 'Preaching To The Converted' and 'The Huntsman Comes A-Marchin' (which Frank used to cover regularly). He also plays an impressive rendition of M1 Song, where he sings without any instrumentation at all. It's a brave move and testament to the size of the man's cojones. A few slower, soppier songs drag a bit but when Chris is rocking and making a stand, there's few who do it better.
It's Frank's turn then, and accompanied by his trusty backing band, he blasts straight into title track from his latest album, 'Poetry Of The Deed'. There's something about the atmosphere once Frank takes to the stage; it's like a party - but one of those house-parties where you know everyone and no-one's trying too hard - it's just fun. It's because he seems like such a down to earth fella, as he sings in second song, 'Try This At Home', "theres no such thing as rock stars, they're just people who play music / some of them are just like us and some of them are [insert expletive]". He's one of us.
Frank asks for a volunteer, and an eager lady in the audience obliges before knowing what she's volunteered herself for. Frank says he can make her do anything he wants, but lets her off with playing the harmonica for Dan's Song. She's surprisingly good, actually. Frank's relaxed style on stage is endearing, he tells us a tale of being pulled out of a riot by a cop to avoid an ex-girlfriend, and asks us for some encouragement to pull off a guitar-solo during 'Sons Of Liberty' because he's "not very good at guitar".
The majority of the set is made up of tracks from 'Poetry of The Deed' and 'Love Ire and Song', with highlights including 'Substitute', 'Prufrock' and closing track, 'Photosynthesis', where Frank invites Jonny Black back on-stage with his pal, Cahir from Fighting With Wire, to play the maracas and tambourine, like his own pair of Bez's.
It's been a steady and deserved rise for Turner, and having progressed from small, solo shows, he's added a band and the bigger sound fits perfectly on the bigger stage. His songs have turned from folk-ballads to potential stadium-filling pop-rock songs, with massive sing-a-long choruses and buckets of heart. And that's why Frank Turner is so great, his songs are genuine - full of emotion, sincerity and heart. I don't think he really knows how good he is. Frank, sir, you definitely can play guitar.